Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Yauatcha: How Not to Treat A Customer

Food blogs are funny things. Ultimately it is just one person's snapshot view of a restaurant. What would bring you to read my views on a restaurant you may well never visit? I guess like all critics, as a s/he is read more and more, the reader compares it with their own experiences and they learn to trust the critic's opinion, or not. They may also come for the writing, or they may even come to satisfy their raging food-porn obsession if the blogger has spent a suitably grotesque amount of money on the latest SLR wonder box of tricks. Did you SEE the bokeh on those?!

Food critics for the New York Times have rules about the number of times they have to eat at a restaurant before they can review it. As to with the Michelin process. Too many times have I seen negative reviews because the kitchen sent a few bad plates out of the thousands that week. It may even have been the only bad plates to get through the pass all year. Nonetheless, bloggers often write up a scathing review and move on to the next terrified bastard holding everyone to Michelin levels. For things that are cheaper like burgers/street food, I will generally try to go several times before writing it up. I understand that everyone pays the same amount for each plate but if only 1% of the orders are duds then it is unfair to say the quality is poor if you’ve only been once and gotten unlucky.

The Karczma: Cultural Oasis in Birmingham

Every country has deep-rooted divisions between its peoples, often stemming from jealousy (or arrogance, depending on which side of the fence you are on). Germany has Bavaria, France has Paris (and Cote D'Azure) and the UK has those living south of the Watford Gap. The UK North/South divide is interesting as it encompasses more than just monetary differences. It’s how you vote, the way you take your tea, what sort of beer you drink, if the person in the next town can understand you. For those of us not fortunate to have been born in this green and pleasant land, it essentially boils down to those in the South thinking the North is a giant barren wasteland full of ugly, smelly, alcoholics on benefits, while the North think Southerners are weak arrogant tossers that think even their farts smell of sunshine and roses. The jury is out as to who is more accurate.

What is a fact though is that London is the best city for food in the UK by both quality and diversity. Vietnamese? Yeah, I know a lovely authentic place run by a family in Camberwell, Korean BBQ - New Malden, Cambodian - a great little place in Camden. French and Spanish is covered on every street in Soho - tapas to cordon bleu - just pick your fancy. 

Lavish Interior Design

Monday, 18 February 2013

London Street Food 2.0: Brick Lane, Kerb, Brockley, Red & Borough

The last time I wrote a street food post it included a multitude of traders over multiple locations. I thought it was an easy way of showing the range of cheap, quality fast food available to the average Londoner. This is the same. I appreciate its rather long but there are also lots of lovely pretty pictures to entertain those with shorter attention spans. 

I was happy when I saw the post getting widely retweeted because these guys work fucking hard and deserve greater publicity than they currently get. The London street food scene has exploded over the last year and there are some great characters and custom modified vans that are beginning to rival the culture found in New York or California. I love street food because it's a great equaliser. Huge bank rolls can only do so much if your product is pants. Put McDonalds onto the streets next to the likes of Burger Bear or BleeckerSt and they wouldn't last a day. Your advertising is limited to who can see your sign, twitter, and people like me. It's capitalism as its most simplistic - those that create a superior product thrive. those that can't match them fall away. Hopefully that means they'll be a race to the top, not the bottom as demonstrated by the recent Horsegate scandal in supermarkets.

Its a well known fact across continental Europe that markets give an area a sense of community and that's what is beginning to happen in and around these sites. Come summer I expect it'll be at its height. Cyncial or overly-manufactured vendors will be shunned. Passionate, hard-working, talented traders will continue to thrive. Vive la révolution. The (Burger)King is dead, long live the King.
Market Happiness

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Fairuz: Warm Welcomes

Overly sweet and sour pork with boil in the bag rice; microwaved salmon and tomato pasta; a leg of lamb, still in a roaring oven, whose last traces of blushing pink was lost some 20 minutes ago. Childhood memories, hardly Larousse Gastronomique. It may surprise you however to hear that these are some of my fondest meals. Why? Because they were cooked by my mother. It doesn’t matter if your mother was Delia or a Ramsay kitchen nightmare; her food will always have a special place. Part of the reason for this is the strong emotional bonds between the cook and the customer.

Restaurateurs either ignore this fact, or grossly misjudge it and try to be cringingly 'matey' (read: Jamie's Italian). It is a rare treat in a gastro-joint, or Michelin-starred tasting menu food-palace, that you forge even an inkling of a bond with the chef or his food. You are there to be wowed and to stand in awe at the expensive ingredients and fancy techniques. Too often customers are served the chef’s vision. Emotional attachment is rarely forged through perfection and more from endearing flaws and genuine warmth in the way it is served.